As monkeypox rates decline, SF officials express cautious optimism

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Friday September 9, 2022
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San Francisco Assemblymembers Matt Haney, in front, and Phil Ting address reporters September 9 about the state's emergency funding to address the monkeypox outbreak. Photo: Eric Burkett
San Francisco Assemblymembers Matt Haney, in front, and Phil Ting address reporters September 9 about the state's emergency funding to address the monkeypox outbreak. Photo: Eric Burkett

Monkeypox infection rates are falling in San Francisco, as well as other parts of the United States but, as officials warned at a press conference Friday, the country isn't out of the woods yet.

At a press conference Friday afternoon at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Assemblymembers Matt Haney (D-San Francisco) and Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) praised local efforts to reign in the MPX outbreak.

"So the state, even as the federal government moved slowly, had to step up and lead," Haney told the assembled press. "And Phil Ting and the Assembly was at the forefront of that, working with state Senator [Scott] Wiener and the LGBTQ caucus. They came forward to the governor and said, 'We need additional funds to make sure that we address prevention of the spread of this virus.'"

Those efforts resulted in a $41 million emergency budget appropriation for the state's public health response to the MPX outbreak. The measure, which also includes funding for other issues, was signed into law Tuesday by Governor Gavin Newsom.

"Because of Governor Gavin Newsom signed the measure, which also includes funding for other issues, into law Tuesdayfunding not only keeps resources flowing, but it also builds them up. We must make sure hospitals, clinics, patients, and advocacy groups continue to get what they need during a public health emergency," said Ting, who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee.

Local health jurisdictions will receive $15,750,000 with $1.5 million allocated specifically to community-based organizations for vaccine clinic administration. The bulk, $25,679,000, is destined for state-level assistance for the California Department of Public Health.

Both in California and the United States, MPX infection rates have been declining, but the race to get vaccinations in the arms of the population most affected by the outbreak, overwhelmingly men who have sex with men, has been an ongoing battle in the face of a shortage of available Jynneos vaccine.

Despite that, San Francisco has been seeing dramatically fewer day-to-day infections reported for more than a week. The virus began appearing in the Bay Area in May. As of September 7, there have been 764 cumulative cases in San Francisco, and 1,336 in the Bay Area as a whole as of September 8.

Tyler TerMeer, Ph.D., a gay man and the chief executive officer of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said at Friday's press conference that those figures may be attributable, in part, to the fact that so many people were able to get the first of the two necessary injections for the vaccine early on in the outbreak.

"Yeah, I mean I think we have seen people who are at highest risk and those who have been able to advocate for themselves and have the ability to get to our clinics get vaccinated," he said. "So I think we're seeing some lull because a lot of folks were able to get their first doses early."

So far, San Francisco has administered more than 20,000 vaccinations, with 15,000 of those done through the city's public hospital, according to its CEO Dr. Susan Ehrlich.

TerMeer said the introduction of intradermal injections, which are done between the epidermis and the hypodermis skin layers, have increased the availability of the otherwise short-in-supply Jynneos vaccine by using less of the vaccine per injection and allowing "folks to start to get their second doses faster."

That said, Folsom Street Fair, which takes place on September 25, will bring in potentially tens of thousands of primarily LGBTQ visitors.

"Yeah, I think one thing to note is that unlike some other street festivals that have happened in our area, Folsom draws an international crowd, and we're not sure what may happen as a result of that," said TerMeer. "But I think that we are staying on top and we're encouraging as many folks to get vaccinated now as the event is several weeks away."

MPX vaccinations clinics this weekend

In other MPX news, Kaiser Permanente will be offering a vaccination clinic for MPX from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, September 10, at the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Clinic at City Center. It is located at 2675 Geary Boulevard in San Francisco in the City Center Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Clinic at City Center complex behind Target.

The vaccine is available to all Bay Area residents, and those who may have been exposed to MPX are also eligible to receive a vaccination at the clinic, according to a statement from Kaiser. Second doses will be given to those who received their first dose of the MPX vaccine more than 28 days ago.

The Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District, along with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, will hold two MPX vaccine pop-ups Saturday, September 10, and Sunday, September 11, at Eagle Plaza, 398 12th Street. Saturday's pop-up will run from 2 to 5 p.m. and Sunday's from 3 to 5 p.m. Leather district manager Cal Callahan said there would be at least 100 vaccines available per day. First and second doses are available.

Those who come for the vaccines must meet SFDPH eligibility requirements and belong to one of the following priority populations: Black, Indigenous, people of color, gay, bisexual, transgender, or a current sex worker of any gender and orientation. On August 31, DPH updated the criteria on its MPX website to state that "all gay, bisexual, trans people, and men or trans people who have sex with men or trans people" are now eligible for vaccination. This is broader than the previous criteria, which limited eligibility to gay and bi men and trans people who had more than one sex partner in the past two weeks.

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